Filed under: Philly
Harry Kalas 1936-2009
I will never pretend to be a huge baseball fan, but one of the charms of living in Philadelphia all those years was hearing Harry Kalas calling a Phillies game. A lot will be written and said over the next few weeks as those more knowledgeable than I wax eloquent on his accomplishments. Even the most casual Phillies fan like myself knew the greatness we were in the midst of. It’s hard to describe in text what the man could do with a microphone, scroll down a few posts and play the clip of Harry calling last year’s World Series, or just go to YouTube and search his name.
Goodbye Harry, rest in peace.
April 14, 2009
The night was electric, two great teams poised on the brink of immortality, an entire city humming with excitement.
“Could it actually happen?” the fans of the underdog whisper, afraid to predict too boldly. I could be talking about New York City and the Giants fans this last week. But I can’t stop comparing the whole scene to Philadelphia in early February, 2005. The similarities are so obvious.
Most obvious, the opponent: The hated, cheating New England Patriots, with their golden-boy Brady smiling for the camera, posing with his super-model girlfriend, while the evil Coach Belichick hides with his video camera. Heavily favored, unanimously picked by the punditry, the veritable Team of Destiny. Eli and his Giants didn’t listen, Donny Mac did.
OK, what else? There was the has been rocker Half-Time Show, this year Tom Petty, and in ’05 Sir Paul, both intstantly forgotten. The Go-Daddy girl bounced in, she made her first appearance in 2005 (a personal favorite).
Then there was the last drive of the 4th Quarter. It was like deja-vu all over again! It’s below the two-minute warning, the good guys must drive the length of the field to victory, to that place at the pinnacle of American sport where only the toughest, the most driven will everÂ gain entry.
This is how Eli Manning looked at the end of that legendary drive:
And this was Donovan McNabb
, legendary too:
It’s not easy being GREEN!
February 4, 2008
205, Damn! The scale in my mother’s upstairs bathroom shouts up at me in bland grey digits.
At first weighing the scale showed a more agreeable, albeit false, 186, but I knew it was just toying with me. The fluffy artichoke green toilet mat somehow got stuck in the lower left corner of my mom’s digital scale. It’s the only scale I ever use. First, it’s a good scale. My sister Anne bought it for Christmas or a birthday some years ago. I don’t know how you buy your mom a scale as a present, but I guess it’s a mother/daughter thing because mom loves it, though somehow I doubt a son could have gotten away with such a gift. Oh yeah, and second, I tend to trust things digital.
I had estimated 209-212. I usually err on the high side so as to stave off disappointment. Those of us in the girthy set play these games with ourselves. So after a quick shower and a pee (every ounce counts) I tried again. I tapped the scale with my foot to awaken it, waited for the display to read 0.00, and then stepped on.
“Blink-Blink 205.0” Well, several pounds less than my estimate, but I was exactly 205 at Christmas, and I was hoping to break the stalemate.
It was a bit before 5AM, so I called a cab and got dressed. Oh, did I mention I was naked for the first few paragraphs? By 5:12AM I was at the Edison Train Station, and by 5:16AM I was headed south to Philly. This was my second trip to Philly in the past five days, and since I was sans car I had more trains, trolleys and busses in my future. But for this trip I’d planned a Phil-a-riffic treat for myself! I de-trained at Suburban Station in Center City Philadelphia at exactly 7:09AM, and since time was a factor in my little scheme, I ran up the several flights of marble stairs to 16th & Arch Streets; 205 not withstanding.
Like the Philadelphia Landmark that it is, there stood Tom’s Lunch Truck, my favorite street cart on the planet, standing humbly just where I left it seven months ago. If this was an audio blog, Handel’s Messiah would be playing in the background right now. It took all the strength I had not to run up to theÂ cart giggling like a girl scout.
Tom and his wife were friendly as ever, but to my horror they looked upon me as a total stranger. Was it my Brooklyn-Cool black leather jacket? Or had it just been too many months? Maybe in the food cart business a man only has the synaptic space for a rotating recall of current customers. But then, as soon as I ordered my Scrapple, Egg & Cheese on a Roll with Hot Sauce, the lights of recognition flashed and I was back in Philly on every level.
“Regular coffee light and sweet?” Tom’s wife asked with a grandmotherly smile.
“Where-a-da-hell-a-you-been?” Tom’s Eastern European accent inquired, suspecting that maybe I’d defected to the new halal guy around the corner.
“I moved to Brooklyn.” I parried.
“Brooklyn? They don’-a-have e-scrapple in Brooklyn.” His playful smile returning.
“I came all the way from Brooklyn for this.” I half-lied as his wife handed me my bag of wonderful scrappley goodness.
“Don’t be a stranger…” Tom shouted as I crossed 16th street heading for the EL.
Down in the subway, a strange place to catch an EL, I had just missed the train, so I had a rare several minutes completely alone to enjoy Tom’s gastronomic creation. I’d like to put into words the amazing taste of this, The King of All Breakfast Sandwiches, but mere prose would never do it justice. Poetic chops the likes of Whitman, Ginsberg or Frost, could, maybe, on a good day, possibly describe the wonder of this meal. “I don’t think I will ever see a tree as lovely as Scrapple Egg & Chee… z”
I was still bathed in the post-coital high from the above mentioned culinary orgasm as I made my way through 69th Street Station in Southwest Philly. I was struck by the familiarity of these people, my Philly bredren. All hearts pumping midnight green Eagles blood, grudgingly supporting the Giants over the hated, cheating Pats. All around me were hundreds of cheesesteak eating, Wawa shopping, blue-collar warriors setting out to do good on a crisp Tuesday morning in January. I felt at home.
January 30, 2008
This isn’t a diatribe against the Eagles coaching staff for letting great player like Jeremiah Trotter go again. No, the sudden sacking of the vaunted Middle Line-Backer, or more so my reaction to it, brought into clear relief the fact that I no longer live in Philadelphia.
It’s funny how things hit you. I worked from home today, and I spent most of the day listening to Philadelphia talk radio. The day’s big hubbub was the decision by the Philadelphia Eagles to release Jeremiah Trotter. I always liked Trotter, he’s a good guy, he’s great in the locker room, but he was a step slow last season, and it’s time for him to go.
If I took the train home to Philly, half the train would have a kind of hangover because of the Trotter news. Someone would see you reading the headline on his paper and say, “It sucks what they’re doing to Trot.” An affirmative grunt would rise from the throat of everyone within earshot.
Later I’d stop in the Steak & Hoagie Factory, and I’d get into a conversation with that drunken guy who is always in there watching the Phillies. Then he’d probably get all emotional, and I’d regret starting the chat.
But in Brooklyn, no one cares! No one knows who Jeremiah Trotter is, and if they do know, they don’t care. I felt so foreign!
Intellectually I knew leaving the Philadelphia area after twenty-two years would eventually hit me, but I thought it would be more, I don’t know, cinematic? Like maybe catching Rocky IV on TBS, or seeing a picture of Kris and Me on South Street, but no, I’m standing on the D train heading into downtown Brooklyn pining over the future of the Eagles’ Defense, and it hits me like a ton of bricks.
Now I didn’t weep openly or anything like that, and I’m sure I’ll get over it, but it will be a long time before I can say I’m from Brooklyn.
Good Luck #54,
Vinny from Philly
August 21, 2007
Fly Eagles Fly, on the road to … ?
2006 Divisional Playoff – New Orleans, LA – 1/13/07
Saints 27 – Eagles 24
What did I do the morning after? I watched Rocky, the original one. I needed a dose of pure Philly heart, beacuse in the final anaysis that what my Eagles showed me last night, and these past eight weeks.
The team started out hot this season, but we were all suspect as to how good the team really was. After a few heartbreaking losses the team, and even the town seemed to lose focus.
The McNabb went down, and in came Garcia. I was one of the loud voices wanting A.J. Feeley to lead the team, win or lose, through the rest of the season, and yeah, I was cheering when Garcia too a big hit in the Colts game, and booed when he came back in after only one play. To say the least I was in a negative frame of mind.
Then week after week the team really showed me something. They were out, they had no shot, but they managed to win. Garcia managed the offense well. Everyone began to remember his time with the 49ers, we started to remember his three Pro Bowls. The guy was a gamer, I ate a lot of crow.
Brian Westbrook began to take over the offense, but best of all he took over the locker room. He became a team leader both on, and off the field. He showed a lot of heart.
Guys like Brian Dawkins and Jeramiah Trotter did the same for the defense. The whole team began to believe. It took a few weeks but the town began to come along.
Andy Reid, the coach, didn’t change his outward demeanor, but he deferred to his Offensive Coordinator, who was Garcia’s coach back in San Francisco, to call the plays. He took a step back to take a step forward, and he led the team to a Cinderella season winning the last five games. He captured the NFC East title, the respect of the NFL, and the imagination of the city.
Entering the playoffs, we all talked a big game, but in our hear of hearts we feared The Saints. We remembered how well they had our number earlier in the season, and that they had only gotten better since.
But in true Philly form our team, ravaged by injuries, tired from a short week, fought like warriors that game. The showed a lot of heart, they left it all on the field, they battled to the end, but just couldn’t punch it through in those last fifteen minutes.
All things considered, it was a good season. It was fun to dream about the Superbowl for a couple of weeks.
And like most of the nation’s football fans, I’ll start thinking about or chances in ’07.
January 14, 2007
The answer comes back, “they have to be.”
I always notice this same building, next to the train tracks, abandoned,Â a five story walk up close to the “bad” part of town. Just past the Temple Train Station heading into Center City, a block from a beautiful gold domed church, or maybe its a mosque. A well built brick structure, old, but not ancient. Wood framedÂ broken windows, flat roof intact, no apparent fire damage, standing like a boredÂ centurion at the edge of blighted North Philly.
I noticed how I always ask the same curious question, “Why do the windows have to be broken?”
Why not, “Why are the windows broken?” or even, “Who broke them windows?”
I wonder if the question stems fromÂ residualÂ institutional racism,Â abandoned broken windowed buildings are usually on the wrong side of the tracks.”Â I pondered that for a moment.
Maybe it was some self window breaking guilt. I was raised Catholic, guilt is a part of the doctrine (I even feel guilty writing that).
I grew up in rural suburban New Jersey, as a kid my friends and I would break windows in abandoned houses, we never asked why. Did those windows have to be broken? I guess so. They just had to be, and it fell upon us to break them, though usually by the time we discovered the house the windows were already broken.
Someone should board them up.You can learn more at Toolerant
January 9, 2007
This isn’t a review of the sporadically funny show on F/X. Has anyone seen it?
Saturday was a sunny day in Philadelphia. I’d been doing a lot of writing on Philly lately, and I felt like I needed a spark, and I could think of nothing sparky-er than a day in Philly with Dolores.
We met up around noon, and went to Jon’s at 3rd and South for lunch. You gotta love a place that makes a quality Reuben. The decor is based around Larry Fine from the Three Stooges, legend has it that he was actually born on that site, though there is no Historical Marker.
Throughout the beautiful afternoon as we were perused the little shops on South Street, we kept noticing these girls dressed in pink frilly dresses, but with goth hair, makeup and those platform lace-up boots. Was this a new goth style? I took to calling them the Goldilocks Goths, and I would have been impressed, non-conformists actually not conforming, but there were three of them, so that idea was shot to hell.
We ended up at Fat Tuesday’s for beers and a few shots, time to add some spice to the afternoon. I tried to get Dolores to win some beads, but we hadn’t done that many shots, though she did have one alarming idea. She announced she was going to get her bellybutton pierced. I was very encouraging, thinking it would make an interesting story.
But, before any piercing was to be done we needed to feed the parking meter, so we headed the four blocks back to Headhouse Square.
Right in Headhouse Square we found a new place called Kildare’s, a good place for an afternoon drink. It was very comfortable, had a big oak bar, and there was even an old drunken guy mumbling at the end of the bar. Most importantly they had Guinness on tap, and it was Brilliant!
Our shot of the day was something called a Washington Apple, I think it was Crown Royal and Apple Schnapps. It was sweet and a little sour, and had a serious kick, we had many. We asked the bartender and a waitress where we could find a good belly piercer, there were plenty places all around, but since they were both fairly well pierced and tattooed, we thought they might have an in.
We hit the street, stopped to drop a few more quarters in the meter, and headed to South 4th Street the home of several body modification shops. We were buzzed but not drunk as we entered No Ka Oi Tiki Tattoo and Body Piercing. We picked this particular place because it looked clean and there were a lot of people inside (the other shops were empty). Our piercer was friendly and professional, not to mention extremely modified and just a little scary. You have to be a bit leery of someone who sticks needles into people for fun and profit.
Unfortunately for me, though fortunately for the pierced among us, no one is allowed in the room while the procedure takes place. I was hoping to photograph the event for posterity, and also to tease and annoy Dolores as he jammed the giant needle in her belly button.
I was impressed, Dolores was one tough cookie! She didn’t scream or yell at all! I’m sure I would have fainted and caused a scene, but I don’t think there’s much of a chance I’ll ever be getting belly pierced.
To celebrate her newly perforated torsoÂ we hit Manny Brown’s a great little dive-ey bar around 5th and South, but we didn’t stay long. The piercing gave Dolores a burst of energy; I hope she doesn’t turn into one of those addicted to piercing people.
Later we browsed a few of these new Porno-Chic shops that seem to be popping up all over South Street. There have always been edgy shops going back to places like Zipperhead, where leather bondage-type apparel had been available for years, but it was more of a tourist thing, a place for teenage skater-boys to look and giggle like Beavis & Butthead.
Now the concept has gone mainstream, we went into several places, and any porn stigma was obviously gone. There were no old men in trench-coats here, only perky teens paying cash as not to alarm complacent parentals.
Next it was to the Wasabi House for a healthful sushi dinner, and then to Bridget Foy’s for drinks (yeah more drinks). Bridget Foy’s was excellent; I put it on my “dinner next time” list.
Overall it was a very good dining and drinking day, oh piercing too, and by the time I got home on Sunday, just before the Eagles game, my head was full of fresh ideas, time to get to work
September 10, 2006
Last Sunday morning I found myself alone at a railroad siding waiting to hop the train into Philly. I was a good ten minutes early, so I sat near the tracks, leaned back and closed my eyes.
When I was a kid Peter O’Malley and I would make day long explorations to the frontier of our world. We would ride our bikes back behind the Tingley Rubber factory, the hilarity of the name lost on our twelve year old experience, for us this was the height of reckless adventure, though actually, we were only a few miles from home.
Cutting a swath a few hundred feet wide through the woods were high tension wires that seemed to go on forever, maybe even as far as Route 1, I don’t think we ever went far enough to find out, we usually stopped near some train tracks.
We’d sit at the road-less crossroads looking up and down the tracks and weâ€™d argue as to where the tracks led. Peter, always a bit more grounded in reality than I, would say, “Up there (North) is Iselin and down there (South) is Trenton.â€ Me, on the other hand, would conjure up names like Tuxedo, New York or Bel-Aire, Maryland, claiming I knew better since my Grandfather worked these rails â€œbefore the War.â€ I probably didnâ€™t know what â€œbefore the Warâ€ really meant, and maybe not evenÂ sure what war I was even referring to.
It might have beenÂ my enduring fascination withÂ maps. As a kid Iâ€™d lay out a map on the living room floor and look for distant magical destinations, like Nashua, New Hampshire, or Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (I only had a Northeast US map). Then Iâ€™d figure a route, calculate mileage, and read aboutÂ the places of interest on the back of the map, or Iâ€™d look them up in theÂ Funk & WagnallsÂ kept in the hallwayÂ bookcase.
Sometimes weâ€™d put pennies on the track, urban legend had it that the train would stretch and flatten them into oval copper discs. Try as we might, the train never showed up, or if it did,Â it was so long we lacked the patience to wait for the caboose, so we never found out if the stories were true.
Shaken back to the present by a distant ambulance siren, I reached into my pocket to search for pennies; I had six.
Looking all around like an unpracticed criminal, I carefully placed the six pennies end to end in the center of theÂ rail, making sure to alternate between heads and tails.Â Moments later the train came into view, and for some reason I stepped away from the pennies as if to disassociate myself with them.
Late that afternoon I made my way back from Philly, and Iâ€™d forgotten all about the pennies until the conductor shouted, â€œCrestmont Next Stop!â€
I stepped from the train and nonchalantly walked away from theÂ platform, just in case the railroad police put out an All Points Bulletin: Be on the lookout for a stealthy criminal penny layer, chances likely perpetrator will return to the crime scene.
I waited tillÂ the train was out of sight, and when the coast was clearÂ I turned around to search for my pennies in the rail bed. They werenâ€™t where I left them, but about eight to ten feet away I saw something shiny, and one by one I found all six flattened copper oval discs, almost featureless with faint penny markings.
I felt like a little kid again, and all the way home I turned the coins every which way with an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.
All this week Iâ€™ve carried the former coins in my pocket and I discovered I wasnâ€™t the only one who thought they were cool. Every guy I showed them to was impressed; it wasÂ a universal male reaction. Older guys, younger guys, black guys, white guys, Spanish guys, skinny guys, fat guys, even Phil, a drunk guy; everyone got it! They would ask to hold one and look at it in wonder as I told my story.Â
I also showed them to several women, they didn’t get it. They justÂ looked at me with a blank expressions and asked,Â â€œWhy the hell would you do that?â€
I guess women are just more complicated.Â
September 8, 2006
I planned to spend the day in Philly, hang out, do some people watching, but I missed the damned train. Undeterred, I figured I’d grab the bus, and I was only steps from the stop when the southbound 55 bus roared passed me.
I was about to give up and hit the diner for a late breakfast when a northbound 55 crested the hill. Seeing it I thought, “Maybe I’ll go to the mall and buy a book,” and a minute later I was dropping my token.
The 55 bus runs from Olney Station in North Philly to the Willow Grove Park Mall (about a mile from my house), and once every hour or so, it continues 12 miles north to Doylestown, PA. I’d always heard Doylestown was a nice place with a cozy historic district, and since it was a bright sunny day, I decided to take a trip.
I de-bussed at State & Main. State & Main, how middle-America-ville can you get. The historic downtown was clean and well peopled at 11 o’clock on Saturday morning. Quaint shops and cafe style eateries lined the narrow streets. Historic houses remodeled into B&B’s sprouted shi-shi restaurants at street level. Well dressed suburbanites were window shopping, their kids eating ice cream on the warm summer day. Enough to make you puke, huh?
Doylestown was founded by the Doyle family in 1692 after receiving a land grant from Willy Penn himself. I felt an immediate kinship with the Irish founders until I read they were actually French, moving to Ireland during the Inquisition. I guess that was a pretty good move, the Inquisition never sounded like much fun.
It’s not all high-end boutiques, I browsed Siren Used Records (yes records) a wonderfully dusty place. Speaking of dust, on the next block was Bucks County Used & Old Books, a no-pressure place to wander about and loose yourself for an hour. There were also strategically placed coffee shops if you’re jones’in for the bean: Bucks County Coffee, Coffee & Cream, and Cafe America to name a few.
Over on East State Street is an art-house cinema; The County Theater. I’m not a big fan of that kind of stuff, but the art deco facade was striking. Around the corner sits Pane e Vino a laid-back Italian joint with outdoor seating, and on Printers Alley a place called Puck, located in the basement of some stuffy bank building. Puck is a funky little place, its sign is a arrow pointing to the basement steps, offering live music and good food.
Across from The County Theater is the Masonic Lodge. Built in 1840 the lodge is perfectly restored, well kept and oozing with evil (I read the DaVinci Code). Back on Main Street I stopped in The Other Side for a pint of Guinness. This was my kind of place, a comfortable neighborhood bar with Irish flavor, and this one had a white tablecloth bistro attached.
I can’t wait to try some of these restaurants. Paganini has a outdoor cafe fenced in with some kind of vine obscuring the patrons from the sidewalk. Slate Bleu is a date destination; a warm atmosphere with exposed brick and timbers, in a revamped circa 1864 building.
In the late 60’s and early 70’s the explosion of malls found Woolworth’s and the other American Main Street mainstays loosing-out to one-stop convenience. Lucky for the people of Bucks County, in the 90’s a few business and community leaders bought up those dying buildings, restored them, and saved them from the wrecking ball.
The cafe I wrote this in is the former William Doyl’s Tavern built in 1745, and was the original name for the area. Of course it’s now a Starbucks, really, it is. I’m reserving judgment though. Fifteen years ago there were plans to turn The Fountain House, as it was then known, it into a municipal parking lot, but now it stands proudly as a glittering jewel of post-millennial Americanism.
At three-thirty I hopped on the 55 bus back to Philly. Maybe next weekend I’ll hop on another bus and see where I end up.
August 13, 2006
I spent the last few days working in Philly. Center City, as we call it, is known for it’s historical edifi, it’sÂ public sculptures, The Art Museum, and the newÂ NationalÂ Constitution Center.Â But I love it for itÂ for the street food!
You’d expectÂ the “City of Neighborhoods” to have great restaurants, but the street vendors are amazing.Â In New York City you can get the famous “dirty water hot dog,” but in Philly you can get a meal.
Wednesday morning I got off the R2 Warminster at Suburban Station. I walked past the dozen or so shops in the station concourse, andÂ up to street level to visit Tom’s Lunch Cart. It was about 9AM and I hadn’t had breakfast. I waited patiently as a woman gave Tom strict orders on exactly how he was to prepare her, whatever it was. The gray haired Tom smiled and joked with her as he happily went about his work.
I’d only been there a few times, but Tom, and his wife, who was filling the beverage bin preparing for the lunch rush, both greeted me like an old friend. I ordered two eggs with scrapple and cheese on a roll with salt, pepper and hot sauce. My mouth watering as he efficiently prepared my food, I was shocked whenÂ my bill was only $2.75.
I paid him, said goodbye, and scurried across the street like a squirrel with an especially good acorn. I sat in the beautiful Love Park, and opened my “Heaven in a Bag.” Words just can’t describe the crispy, yet gooey scrappley yumminessÂ mixing gently withÂ egg and hot sauce on the world famous Amoroso Roll. A true culinary orgasm!
I went into an adjacent building, and did my work thing for half the day. At about 3PM I was walking back through the park thinking about lunch. Right there on 16th Street, between Market & JFK, there are several greatÂ food carts withÂ fantastic cheesesteaks, South Philly sausage, and evenÂ fruit salad if you’re feeling guilty.
Â I walked past them all to hit “The King of Falafel.” I don’t think he’s really a king, it’s the best falafel in Philly.
This time I got a falafel sandwich with baba ganouj. Insead of a pita they put it in a wrap-like thingy, much like the Jamiacan roti, some hot sauce; Woo Hoo, another great meal!
Check out the “Roach Coaches” next time you’re in Philly!
June 16, 2006
I’m a roof cleaner, I’m also a cart returner and a hose roller.
Continue February 13, 2006
Here I go again!
Finally nailed down the details, well at least the dates and flight. I’m leaving the day before easter and coming back 9 days later.
This will be my second April trip, it’s a great time to go. The “Sumer Season” and lower prices kick in April 15th for most of Negril, unfortunately my number one destination The Blue Cave Castle doesn’t drop prices till May 1
I have it down between three places; Hidden Paradise, Banana Shout and Heartbeat. There are a few other possibles, but I plan on booking this weekend and I’m tired of weighing pros and cons.
If any of my Negril friends will be there that week, drop me a line, I know of a few that’ll be around, and a friend from Philly may be coming by for a few days.
February 9, 2006
The place was cooler than I remembered, I’d always sat outside with my coffee (better ogling vantage point), but inside it’s a small place with well worn furniture and packed full with South Street bohemian types, all disorganized in a refreshingly un-starbucks, un corporate kind of way. Adverts for new bands, poetry readings and body piercings festooned the walls.
Continue December 15, 2005
“The Biggest Human Event in Planetary History!” A headline blared from some mega media website. A bit heavy handed don’t you think? Well, I was there, and I wasn’t in some cordoned off media area with air conditioning and adult beverages. No not me, your intrepid reporter was in the thick of it, squashed between stinky biker types, soccer moms and half naked teenagers. What I don’t do for you, dear reader!
The adventure began with a walk to the train depot near my house. There were about twenty very young, very hip looking people waiting impatiently for the 7:51 SEPTA R2. A few High School aged girls were flitting about unable to mask their excitement, while the ultra-hip nose ring and Doc Martin crowd looked on disdainfully. I guess I fell somewhere in between, as my tie-dye shirt, canvas shorts and sandals identified me as one of the faithful.
Going to events in Philly via public transportation is usually an adventure and this trip did not disappoint. Packed well beyond capacity with bleary eye-ed Live8ers, the train rolled and rocked its way towards Philadelphia and the big event. Industro-techno music from an unseen boom box filled the crowded car, keeping heads bopping, feet tapping, and really pissing off the conductor who was unable to control the situation. Other than feeling a little weird being the oldest person on the train, the trip was far-out! I mean cool. The cat’s pajamas?
Back in the spring I’d heard there was going to be a Live-Aid 2, and I barely took notice except to reminisce about that long, hot, and very wasted day at the old JFK Stadium when I was a kid.
As the hype grew so did my desire to be a part of history, again. Really it was more like a “wouldn’t that be cool ifâ€¦” kind of thought, but as the big day drew nearer my resolve grew stronger and at 8AM Saturday July 2nd I was on my way!
It was Live 8 this time, not Live Aid, and this time we’re not fighting hunger, but tackling third world debt and trade injustice. I guess I’m not the only one who’s grown up in the last twenty years.
Walking up the stairs from Suburban Station in Center City Philadelphia, I was amazed how crowded the city was at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. I could see thousands of people streaming from everywhere up Broad Street toward Ben Franklin Parkway. What a sight to see!
Finally, I got to the place where I was supposed to meet my friends, but they were nowhere to be found, so after a few minutes I decided to check out the infrastructure for today’s event which was pretty impressive.
The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is about a quarter mile long from Love Park to the Art Museum, you know, the one with all the stairs Rocky likes to run around on?
At several points along the tree-lined Parkway there were huge television monitors with speaker clusters, they seemed so far from the stage, and were right in the middle of the street. How many people are they really expecting?
I counted four very large, well staffed EMS tents with huge pallets of ice and bottled water to keep the thousands hydrated, and even at 8:30AM the police presence was heavy and everywhere.
Parked at 20th and 22nd Streets North and South were big red fire trucks with giant spray arms ready to cool the crowd. I didn’t think the crowd would actually get this far back. There was no view of the stage. Little did I know that in a few hours 22nd street was only going to be mid-crowd.
Lining the entire length of the Parkway were food vendors of every stripe, well almost every stripe, hundreds of them! There was your regular outdoor event fare, Hot Dogs, Cheesy Fries, and Water Ice. There was also Greek, Chinese, Organic, Vegetarian, and even a Falafel stand, but no Jamaican food! What a disgrace!
My gastronomical disappointment was short lived, I was standing just a hundred yards from the stage when The Fresh Prince himself came out and the place went nuts! He spoke of the reason for Live 8, how we were all here so the members of the G8 would take notice of poverty in the third world, especially Africa. I was impressed with my fellow revelers, because they cheered like crazy and we all joined people around the world in raising our hands in the air in an act of unity.
Normally, being a sophisticated slightly jaded ex-deadhead, I would poo-poo this act of unity by the ipod generation, but I was caught up in the moment as the Black Eyed Peas took the stage and found myself jumping and cheering with the crowd.
Then as if by magic, the familiar bass riff of Bob Marley’s “Get-Up, Stand-Up” shook through the crowd and then Rita and Stephen Marley took the stage and broke into the lyrics! Was this really happening? Woo Hoo! What a moment! The sheer power and integrity of the Marley’s created an irie explosion that blew from the stage into the crowd as we all moved as one.
Then it was my ol’ pal Bon Jovi, his familiar “Livin’ on a Prayer” is a Philly classic. Although eighty percent of the crowd wasn’t born when the New Jersey album came out, (hell it was actually an album, vinyl, an LP!) their moms and dads kept the song a staple in classic rock radio.
The day was getting hot and my friends and I decided to move back from intensity of a “Stage View” position. I didn’t really have much need to hear the canned music of Destiny’s Child, but the slappin’ bass line turned us around and I have to admit, Beyonce’s “Survivor” rocked! Something about her voice that cut through everything and made white people jump up and down saying things like “You Go Girl!!” I sometimes feel the need to apologize for my race.
For the next few hours we listened to the music, but spent most of our time people watching. They were all here, though most of the crowd was between fifteen and twenty five there were thousands of kids, this was definitely as family friendly affair. No bad behavior, no obvious booze consumption and all day, ALL DAY, I didn’t get one, NOT ONE whiff of sweet ganja smoke. There were also a large cadre of hippies, and hillbillies, radical old ladies and a smattering of outlaw bikers.
Walking thru the crowd is always a lot of fun, I found one guy who had crowd walking down, he was about 6’3″ very hairy, very sweaty and had his arms over his head, it was like he was a big smelly Moses as the crowd seemed to part before him. What I found sorely lacking were the angry young men and lesbian activists, they were there, but kind of quiet and marginalized, so they didn’t add the flavor I count on them for at these large events.
I dialed back in when Toby Keith was singing some song about “Whiskey for my men, and beer for my horses,” you gotta love dem backward ass country folk.
Next up was Dave, the Dave Matthew’s Band, a big time favorite of mine! The sound was great for an open air concert and I tried to get closer for a better view of Dave, but I only got as far as the 22nd Street North fire truck sprinkler set-up. Dave-shmave, now this was quite a sight! A few hundred folks were frolicking in the cool falling water, like a giant wet t-shirt contest. Of course I watched only for editorial reasons, just to relay the event properly.
This is where I noticed the first of another interesting activity many teenage girls were involved in. They would walk up to a bootleg t-shirt seller, ask for his ID, and when she felt she proved he wasn’t legit, she’d start in on the guy. She would scream, “You fucking dirtbag!! You’re stealing from starving babies!! What the Fuck is wrong with you!! Don’t you have a fucking soul???????? Etc. . .” While her friends who were spaced twenty yards apart all screaming for the police and pointing in the direction of their friend and often the fleeing seller.
It was a pretty funny site these big tough looking guys with a five foot nothing sixteen year old girl just wailing on them. Most just walked away, some argued back and a few ran. Good work girls! Linkin Park was the perfect soundtrack for this, starting sweet and then rocking out!
I found a place under a tree and took some notes as Sara McLanahan’s beautiful voice mixed with the cool breeze and cooled off a million people bringing them to a mellower place. I’d hear Sara before, my daughter likes her a lot, but this was the first time I ever listened to her. Wow, just enchanting.
By the time Stevie Wonder came on I was all the way back to Love Park singing the dozenth “we hate capitalism” type petition of one kind or another. This added to my pile of fliers from NORML, Act-Up, The Lesbian and Gay Task Force, and even the Church of Scientology, though I didn’t see Tom and Katie anywhere.
The mass exodus to busses, trains and parking lots slowed to a crawl as more and more people turned to take in Stevie Wonder’s performance. Dressed in white at his piano, with a full band and choir also dressed in white, “Superstition” was bouncing off the granite museum walls, like a giant surround stereo. Even the cops and vendors stopped and bobbed their heads paying homage to the legendary performer.
Getting out of town was insane, every road was choked with traffic and the over taxed and under prepared regional rail service was rife for one of those human stampedes. It was a hundred degrees in the station, the air was thick stinky, people had that look in their eyes where panic was only an inciting incident away. I got out of there.
I walked a few blocks to Girard and Broad, got on the very crowded but tolerable Broad Street Subway up to Olney Transportation Center and waited for the 55 bus to take me home. While I waited I got a few patties and a few Tings at the Golden Crust Bakery and Grill and pondered the enormity of the situation I’d just left.
July 3, 2005
Vinny from Philly reporting live from Live8 in Philly!
Lots of good bands, an overly well behaved crowd, and good time is being had by all. I’m a little bored but I’m kind of a pain in the ass that way.
I am taking notes and will be posting a full report this evening.
July 2, 2005
November 9, 2004
At the pinacle of our trip far up the Black River (4-5 miles further than the “tourist” boats) was the most peaceful amazing dock. We relaxed, swam with the crocs and had a few Red Stripes at the most convenient little hut bar.
It was an awesome day!! Took the route taxi out and back, great memories!
October 10, 2004
October 10, 2004
Alan in an amazing artist. He created these beautiful table tops from scraps of tiles he found in Negril.
And of course Alan himself, looking for ripe mangos with a friend!
October 10, 2004